PFOA 2005
November 29, 2005. DuPont seeking cause of seepage.
By Nomee Landis. Fayetteville Observer (North Carolina).

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November 29, 2005

Fayetteville Observer (North Carolina)

DuPont seeking cause of seepage

By Nomee Landis
Staff writer

Barry Hudson, the manager of DuPont’s Fayetteville Works plant, says that he does not know how the chemical got into the groundwater.

A chemical that has contaminated drinking water near a DuPont plant in West Virginia has seeped into groundwater beneath the Fayetteville plant where it is made.

The chemical, ammonium perfluorooctanoate, or APFO, is commonly called C8. It is used by DuPont and other companies to make products including fast-food wrappers, Teflon pans and coatings for wires and semiconductors.

APFO was found two years ago in the groundwater beneath another building at the plant site. The plant is off N.C. 87 near the Cumberland-Bladen County line.

Barry Hudson, the manager of DuPont’s Fayetteville Works plant, said Monday that he and other company officials do not know how the chemical got into the groundwater beneath the APFO manufacturing facility. He said it is not related to the contamination detected earlier.

Michael Johnson, the environmental manager at the plant, said the amount of contamination surprised him, but the level is not a concern.

More groundwater samples must be drawn, Johnson said, to get a clearer picture of the extent of the contamination and where it might have come from. Months of dry weather have made it difficult to test the groundwater because some of the wells have been dry.

The most contaminated water was taken from a new monitoring well near the APFO facility. That sample found a concentration of 147 parts APFO per billion parts water. That is about 100 times more than the amount discovered beneath the other building in 2003.

Johnson said 1 part per billion is about the same as a single drop in 22,000 gallons of water.

Hudson said the contamination could have resulted from a spill at the APFO facility, but none of the technicians can recall an incident that might have caused it. Some APFO is released through the smokestack at the facility into the air. The solid chemical settles to the ground and dissolves in water. It can then be carried into the groundwater.

Hudson said the facility releases about 200 pounds of APFO into the air each year around the plant. He expressed doubt that the polluted groundwater was a result of airborne releases, but he said DuPont was considering upgrading the technology to remove more of the chemical from the air.

The C8 Working Group is a coalition of public interest groups and members of the United Steelworkers Union. That union represents some DuPont employees, but not those in Fayetteville. It has been working to publicize the APFO contamination in Fayetteville.

The C8 Working Group wants more stringent monitoring of the DuPont Fayetteville Works plant to ensure that APFO is not getting into drinking water or otherwise affecting people here as it has in West Virginia.

2003 discovery

DuPont discovered APFO in the groundwater beneath the Nafion plant on its site in 2003. They attributed that to an old concrete cistern beneath that plant that failed years ago and allowed chemicals to seep into the groundwater. They said earlier this year that the APFO there was probably formed when other chemicals biodegraded.

The discovery of APFO in the groundwater, though, led to the expansion of the monitoring program on DuPont’s property. In 2003, there were five monitoring wells. Now there are 24, and seven more are planned.

DuPont opened the $23 million APFO facility in 2002 to produce the chemical after the 3M company stopped making it. The Fayetteville site is the only place in the U.S. where the chemical is made.

In West Virginia and Ohio, the chemical has contaminated drinking water. That led to a class-action lawsuit involving more than 50,000 people. DuPont agreed in March to pay $107.6 million to settle the suit. The company is also paying for health screenings for as many as 60,000 people who drank contaminated water. The company could pay as much as $235 million for that monitoring.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is investigating the chemical because it lingers so long in the environment and in people. Studies have shown that APFO is in the blood of nearly every American.

The chemical is not regulated by the EPA.

Hudson said a new round of groundwater sampling will begin in January at the Fayetteville plant. The N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency will conduct sampling at the same time that DuPont takes its samples.

Larry Stanley, a hydrogeologist with the state, is working closely with DuPont to monitor the APFO contamination. The state is concerned, Stanley said, because the APFO facility has not been operating long.

Stanley said it is still early in the monitoring process, but it has asked DuPont to install more monitoring wells and to investigate how the chemical got into the water and where it came from.

The state could ask DuPont to clean up the contamination if it is found to exceed a state standard. But such a standard does not yet exist. Stanley said state environmental officials are discussing whether to establish that standard and how that might be done.

Stanley said it has become more involved since the C8 Working Group asked the state to conduct sampling.

Staff writer Nomee Landis can be reached at or 486-3595.

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